In order to have British educational documents legalised at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they first need to be signed by a practising UK solicitor or Notary Public.
This is because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not hold a database of signatures of staff working in universities, and are therefore unable to confirm their signatures.
The information below has been extracted from the FCO information leaflet, so that you may know if your document can be legalised or not:
Educational documents which are not degrees, diplomas, certificates, qualifications or other awards may be legalised if they have been issued by an educational establishment in the UK. This includes school reports and letters concerning enrolling, attendance, fees and grades.
Documents which are degrees, diplomas, certificates, qualifications or other awards can be legalised if they were issued by an educational establishment if it is registered at one of the following websites:
- ‘Register of Providers’ or the ‘Recognised Degrees’ sections of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) website
- the Scottish Qualifications Authority website
- the National Database of Accredited Qualifications website
- the British Accreditation Council Website
- the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council
- the Association of British Language Schools
Additionally, qualifications which are or were issued by OCR, Edexcel, Higher National Diploma, City and Guilds, National Open College Network, GNVQ or the American Study Abroad Programme in the UK can also be legalised.
Once you have established that your document can be legalised there are three main ways to have it done.
- The original certificate itself is signed and legalised.
- A certified copy is made and the copy is legalised.
- A cover sheet is attached to either the original or a copy and the cover sheet is legalised.
The choice will depend on what is accepted by the authority to whom the document is to be submitted.
In the first method the solicitor or notary public must sign the document and state “I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this document”, or something along these lines. Some solicitors will be happy to do this, some won’t. So if you find a solicitor that is not happy to do it, just try another one.
Note that the solicitor must sign their own name, and not their company name. Also they must clearly state their name and add their company stamp.
In the second method a photocopy of the original is made and the Notary or solicitor will compare the original to the copy and write ‘I hereby certify this to be a true copy of the original document presented to me’ or something similar.
In the third method, which it is most common for Notaries to use, either of the above statements or something similar will be written on a sheet of paper attached to the front of the document. Each notary will have their own wording for this.
If you don’t know if you need a Notary Public or solicitor, you will need to contact the authority abroad who are requesting the certificate, and find out what their requirements are. Sometimes all they want is the Apostille (legalisation) attached to it, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose, but sometimes they may demand that a Notary Public signs it instead of a solicitor. The requesting authority is the only place you can go to make sure you comply with their requirements.